Domain Names Update


As an update to our June 2009 edition of Knowledge Bytes regarding the expansion of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), it appears that there will be further delays in implementation of the proposed scheme. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers, announced at its October 2009 meeting that it has abandoned its plans to launch the application process in the first half of 2010, and it declined to set a future launch date. Instead, ICANN advised that a future launch date will be dependent on community efforts to solve the overarching issues, including: competition, consumer protection, security, stability and resiliency, malicious abuse issues, sovereignty concerns, and rights protection.

Given this, while a third version of the Draft Applicant Guidebook (“DAG”) was released by ICANN in October, it appears likely that a fourth version of the DAG will be released, which would obviously further delay the implementation.

In the meantime, as a result of requests from the public forum at ICANN’s Seoul meeting, ICANN published a draft model for soliciting “expressions of interest” (“EOIs”) from organizations with a serious interest in applying for a new gTLD.

All applicants for a gTLD in the first round must submit an EOI; later application rounds will be open to any eligible applicant. Those participating in the EOI process would be charged a deposit of $55,000, which could be used as credit against the full application fee of $185,000 for a new gTLD. A participant would also be required to provide specific information regarding its endeavours and the requested string. In ICANN’s words, it hopes that “Receiving expressions of interest … will likely contribute to a better understanding of: 1) the economic demand for new gTLDs; 2) the number of gTLDs that are likely to be requested; and 3) inform the program’s operational readiness plan”. Additionally, such a process would likely also prove attractive to potential gTLD applicants as they can move forward with their plans, as well as to trademark owners as they can identify character strings that may infringe their trademark rights.

On the topic of trademark protection, in mid-December the Special Trademarks Issues Working Team published a report detailing its recommendations for the creation of a Trademark Clearinghouse and Uniform Rapid Suspension procedure to protect trademarks in the new gTLD program. A public comment period remains open on these recommendations until January 26, 2010.

Though the expansion of the gTLD system appears to have lost some traction, the same cannot be said for internationalized domain names (“IDNs”). As regular Knowledge Bytes readers know, IDNs are domain names featuring non-Latin characters before and after “the dot”. At its October meeting, ICANN approved a fast track process for IDNs, and the process – which permits nations and territories to apply to ICANN for Internet extensions reflecting their name in characters from their national language – launched on November 16, 2009. Provided the applicants meet the criteria (which include government and community support and established technical criteria), successful national and territorial applicants will be approved to start accepting registrations. It is expected that use of non-Latin based scripts may begin sometime in 2010. As of December 21, 2009, ICANN reported that it had received 16 requests, representing 6 languages.